SNDLOU: 5 tips from a student

Greg Mees

Greg Mees, Colorado State University

For students who have never been, the annual SND conference can be a little daunting and seem overwhelming. Tons of professionals and people that you admire, days filled with sessions and late hours out with the best in the biz.

SNDLOU will be my fourth conference –– I’ve attended the one in Denver, St. Louis and Cleveland. And, I can say, each of them just gets better. So to all of those students who are first-time SND goers, here are some things to keep in mind in order to get the most out of your experience:

Networking

One of the best things about going to conference is the fact that you get to meet a ton of people in the industry. Whether it’s visual journalists that you admire, people you may have heard of or even some that maybe you have no idea who they are, you’ll get to rub shoulders with the best. There are a few things you should remember and keep in mind when you’re schmoozing with the professionals.

  • Don’t be afraid to go up and introduce yourself to someone. If there’s someone that you want to meet or talk to, don’t hesitate to go up to them and say hello. The only word of caution here: Don’t go up to someone who looks like they are in deep conversation.
  • On that same note, don’t be afraid to go up to someone and ask them to look at a piece from your portfolio. If it’s not a scheduled meeting, or outside of the critique session, don’t take up too much time, but a piece or two will never hurt.
  • One of the most important pieces of information I think I can give is that networking is useless unless you bring business cards. All of the designers, yourself included, will meet so many people that it will be hard to remember unless you have cards to hand out.
  • After the conference is over, make sure that you get in touch with the people you met. Send them an email thanking them for looking at your portfolio.

Portfolio

One of the best things about going to the conference is the opportunity to have professionals take a look at your work. So tip number two: Bring your portfolio.

Portfolios can be super overwhelming so I have a couple of quick pieces of advice:

  • First off, bring everything you think is worthy of showing. From college newspaper pages to internship pieces, you’ll want to have everything with you.
  • Now, with that said, don’t overwhelm people. Even though you may have 20 pieces that you brought, decide wisely as to what you’re going to show. (The main reason I say bring everything is because you don’t want to regret not having something with you.) And moreover, decide wisely who you’re going to show, what. If you’re talking to Luke Knox you may want to show off some sports work. If you’re talking to Martin Gee you might want to have some features pages or illustrations. And if you’re talking to Greg Manifold, you might want to have some news pages on hand. That’s not to say that a news designer can’t and won’t critique other pages, but I’ve found you get the most out of the critiques by making smart decisions about what you show to certain people.
  • I honestly don’t think it matters if you have a printed portfolio or bring your clips on an iPad — that just depends on if you want to carry around an 11X17 portfolio. I’ve found the iPad does just the trick. And …
  • Make sure you always have your portfolio. You never know when you’re going to run into a hiring manager that wants to take a look at your stuff and have to tell that person you don’t have it with you.

From crying (I’ve never actually cried publicly at SND — just felt like it), to smiling so much that my face hurt, I’ve left critiques at SND workshops with just about every emotion on the face of the planet. But, don’t be discouraged! While some people may be a little more harsh on others, I think that at the end of the day, the professionals want to be honest and want to help students grow as visual journalists. And hey, those harsh critiques are only going to make you want to go out and do even better work.

Social side

SND is just as much about the social aspect as it is about attending sessions and learning. I’d argue that you can learn just as much after the sessions are over.

  • Don’t be afraid to find a group and go hang out. Grab dinner, grab drinks (but please, drink in moderation), and meet other students and professionals. One of the biggest advantages is that there are so many talented people in one spot so it’s hard to decide who you want to chat with. But, just because the sessions are over at the end of the day doesn’t mean that the fun is.
  • Make sure to meet as many different people as you can. A lot of hiring managers come to the conference and are scoping out young talent. Not only should you be showing them your work, but you should also be trying to get to know them on more of a personal level and interacting with them.

One final word: SND is a great organization and conferences are just as great. So get ready, because I think Louisville is set to be the best yet. I always find myself feeling more inspired after the conference and a lot of times the best work comes out of that. So whether it’s on the digital side or for print, find something that makes you want to be a better journalist and take that with you after the conference is over.

Click here to register for SND Louisville. To reserve your room at the Galt House Hotel with a discounted rate, click here.